A proposed Waikato medical school could help prevent a generation of talented young people being lost to medicine.

Waikato DHB chief executive Nigel Murray gave a public talk on the med school proposal on Tuesday and said the country wasn't producing enough doctors to meet its growing health needs.

Several in the audience identified themselves as GPs keen to learn more about the Waikato bid.

Waikato University Professor of population health Ross Lawrenson.
Waikato University Professor of population health Ross Lawrenson.

The medical school proposal, a joint initiative by Waikato University and the Waikato District Health Board, aims to reverse a shortfall of primary-care doctors, especially in provincial and rural areas.

New Zealand currently imports 1100 overseas trained doctors a year.

Murray said the Waikato DHB employs a lot of overseas trained doctors.

"They do a fabulous job...but we know as a community we want to be able to say that there are more doctors that we are training in New Zealand, within our cultural norms and standards.

"It's something that's important to use, it's important to iwi."

Contrary to the traditional medical school model, the Waikato school will take graduates with a three-year university degree in any discipline, who are from the communities that need them.

Murray said the med school proposal would create a mechanism to find people who are passionate about their community.

The new school would meet the same academic standards as the country's two existing medical schools.

"There's lots of bright young kids that don't go into medical schools first go around, maybe they're just not ready for it, maybe their study habits aren't in the right place. But we don't want to have a lost generation who could have become keen health care providers in our community. This [medical school] creates a new way of doing that."

The Government is currently considering the Waikato proposal.

Waikato University Professor of population health Ross Lawrenson said work was underway to look at how potential medical students from needy backgrounds could be supported through fee scholarships.

The Waikato proposal draws on successful community-engaged medical schools overseas, such as the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

Lawrenson said the Northern Ontario med school used scholarships in a "big way" and was an example the Waikato proposal wanted to follow.

Asked if creating a third medical school risked flooding the market with GPs - and triggering a drop in salaries - Lawrenson said the country needed to increase the number of medical students becoming primary-care doctors.

A big group of GPs are due to retire in coming years, with the workforce's average being 54.

At the same time the country's population was growing by 80,000 people a year.

"That means that we need another 80 GPs every year on top of all those that are retiring," Lawrenson said.

"We need about 800 doctors a year to train just to keep up with demand. If you look at Auckland, they're going to suck up an extra 200 GPs to deal with their retirement and population and we're only training 200 a year as a country."

The Waikato medical school is expected to have an intake of 60 students each year, and will build to a steady state of a total of 200 funded students by 2021.

In February, philanthropist Sir Owen Glenn pledged $5 million toward the creation of a medical school in Waikato.


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